2 years ago ING, CEPR, Dimension Data, Dell EMC and Deloitte, together with a group of researchers and experts, came together to form the Think Forward Initiative (TFI). The goal was to analyse the challenges consumers face when making financial decisions and help build solutions to effectively empower them.

Over time, many valuable insights regarding financial decision making were gathered – “Can I Afford This”, “Jaap’s Money Calendar” and “Social Nudging” were all key ideas that stemmed from the research gathered since the first TFI Summit in 2016.  Then, at that very same summit the following year, an important question was posed: How can we now harness all the research we’ve done to create scalable impact?

Taking It To the Next Level with a Tailored Accelerator Program

Hence, in the summer of 2017, TFI partnered up with Startupbootcamp Amsterdam, part of the We Empower Innovators Network, to work towards that very goal. It was a collaboration aimed at springboarding innovation for impact, within the financial sector.

An accelerator program entails a ‘pressure cooker’ environment. It gives intense, focused attention to companies and stimulates “learning by doing”, at a rapid pace. In such a program, years worth of learning is compressed into a period of a few months. It seemed then, that what the Think Forward Initiative wanted to achieve – scalable, actionable impact in service of society’s financial empowerment – was well matched with what an accelerator program could possibly deliver. The key of course, was to tailor such a program, to the Initiative’s needs and overall aims.

Validating Our Assumptions: Is This The Best Way Forward?

This pilot accelerator program is unique in a sense that it has 2 tracks: Evolving in 3 month cycles, phase 1 of this program is curated specifically for intrapreneurs hailing from established organisations. Candidates in this track will bring with them special skills, in areas relating to technology, user-experience, marketing, innovation and more. Phase 2, the Growth track, is focused on start-ups in the fintech-impact sphere looking to scale up further. With such an approach in place, we are also going through the process of ‘learning by doing’. In running this pilot, we too are validating how bringing research and innovation together can be best optimised for social impact.

Kick Starting The Program

The planning for the Accelerator was months in the making but things really sprung into motion on 20th October – Carousel Day, where we put a bit of an unconventional spin on the usual Startupbootcamp-style “Selection Days”. Our focus was on 12 extraordinary individuals, vying for a spot in one of the 3 final teams to be curated, to participate in the accelerator’s first stage. These candidates were specialised in areas such as creative design, technology or marketing, and also brought with them a unique entrepreneurial flavour.

Shaping the Ideal Teams

From questions relating to their first experiences with entrepreneurship, to what impact meant to them personally, the series of in depth conversations that followed were crucial in helping shape the Accelerator’s Pioneer cohort of 3 teams.  It was all about peeling off the layers and genuinely letting us get to know them on a more personal level; and that’s exactly what happened.

“You’re not a failure if you start something and it doesn’t work –
if you gain one learning from the experience, then to me, it is a win.”

Roeland Jimenez

“I like helping people. I always try to get a good atmosphere going and do my best to develop others to work together as a team”

Sara Fernández

“I love working with people who are in love with what they are doing”

Erna Vitalariu

“You learn much more by doing a ton of different things. Me? I’m doing about 20 different things right now. In each of those activities, a steep learning curve is absolutely crucial.”

Devie Mohan

“You will deal with uncertainty, you will need to learn fast and and you will have to adapt to changes as they come.”

Tasked with bringing the research done by the Think Forward Initiative to life, the teams now have the freedom to transform or develop the research-backed ideas further by utilising the various tools at their disposal provided by the Startupbootcamp Amsterdam’s carefully curated accelerator program. The road ahead is about discovering, validating and building their minimum viable proposition – and the teams are well focused on doing their best for Demo Day in February!

Stay tuned to the stories that will unfold as we move from “discovery”, to “validation” and beyond!